K-12 Member Spotlight: IDEAL New Mexico

Designing courses using QM Standards to ensure quality

Innovative Digital Education and Learning-New Mexico (IDEAL-NM) is a statewide eLearning program of the New Mexico Public Education Department. IDEAL-NM came to be in 2008 under the Cyber Academy Act and Distance Learning Rule. It was enacted with the goal of offering statewide virtual courses in collaboration with New Mexico schools. Through the virtual school, districts and charter schools are now able to expand educational opportunity for students. IDEAL-NM provides online courses taught by licensed New Mexico teachers. The enrolling school provides students with the space and technology and designates a site coordinator or learning coach to monitor and support students to ensure success.

IDEAL-NM currently offers 116 semester-long IDEAL-NM courses for supplemental, blended and fully online learning to 81 school districts (of the 89 districts in the state of New Mexico), 5 independent charter schools, 2 private schools, and 2 other school types operate independent domains within the statewide Learning Management Systems in the state. This creates branded web portals to access all of the courses offered by IDEAL-NM at no cost to the students or districts.

Students can enroll on a rolling basis as needed based on their need for online courses. Currently IDEAL-NM is serving over 1,000 students taking courses in math, social studies, science, health, world languages and language arts. Students across the state of New Mexico enroll in the IDEAL-NM virtual school for a variety of reasons including, enrichment, expanded access to electives, credit recovery and acceleration and to fulfill the distance learning graduation requirement. IDEAL-NM encourages the use of technology to offer more personalized and college- and career-ready educational programs. 

IDEAL-NM joined the Virtual School Leadership Alliance (VSLA), an association of the chiefs of virtual schools that provides collegial support and collaborative opportunities to the individual members and member organizations, in 2011. As a member of the (VSLA), IDEAL-NM is able to share resources, services, and expertise with other virtual State Schools.  One benefit of joining the VSLA was that IDEAL-NM was able to become a member of Quality Matters (QM) to help review and improve the quality of their online offerings. 

The need for quality online learning

Vanessa Barela, the Academic Services Director for IDEAL-NM, saw the need for ensuring that all the courses they designed were of the highest quality. She worked to implement an internal review process and course design procedure before IDEAL-NM would roll coruses out to districts and students.

Vanessa states, “I became a part of the IDEAL-NM staff in 2014 after being in K-12 education since 2008. My background for blended design comes from teaching over 25 Computer Aided Design Courses to students in one school as well as teaching Aerospace Engineering courses in a blended format. For IDEAL-NM I have developed many of our courses and have assisted in the revision of courses to meet QM Certification.” Vanessa has taken the K-12 Applying the QM Secondary Rubric (K-12 APP) and the K-12 Reviewer Course (K-12 RC). Vanessa also serves as IDEAL-NM’s QM Coordinator, the organization's representative to QM.

The course development team at IDEAL-NM reviews courses for quality and their teachers are evaluated for instructional practice. IDEAL-NM envisions robust educational options for students in New Mexico that ensure all students have access to the full continuum of student-centric online and blended learning opportunities regardless of zip code or socio-economic status.

The Future: Additional training and course reviews

Going forward, IDEAL-NM will be using reviewers across the VSLA QM Consortium to internally review their AP Courses. So far, they have had the following courses reviewed via this process: AP English Literature, AP English Language and AP US History. After those courses have been reviewed, they hope to have AP US Government, AP Psychology, and AP Environmental Science reviewed. IDEAL-NM sees the biggest challenge with implementing QM as the limited financial resources available to ensure that their teachers can be trained and that their courses can be reviewed. Working with the schools in the VSLA to internally, informally review these courses has been a solution that has worked for them and gives them a strong foundation and confidence that their courses will do well when they are ready to submit them for formal QM Certification.

Vanessa Barela is the Academic Services Director for  IDEAL-NM.